Film Review: No Man’s Land

DIRECTED BY

Conor Allyn

STARRING

Jake Allyn, Jorge A. Jiménez, Frank Grillo, Andie MacDowell, Alex MacNicoll, Andres Delgado, Esmeralda Pimentel, Ofelia Medina, Alessio Valentini, Iván Aragón, Juan Carlos Remolina and George Lopez

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SYNOPSIS

When a vigilante border patrol turns fatal, a man flees on horseback to Mexico, seeking forgiveness from the victim’s father.

or one family protecting their land on the Texas-Mexico border is everything but one night when confronted with an immigrant family illegally crossing the border Jackson accidentally kills a young boy. With his father Bill attempting to take the blame, Jackson flees the authorities on horseback and crosses the border into Mexico. Now an “illegal alien” himself, Jackson finds himself face to face with the very fears he imposed on others. The fear of living on the run. What lessons will Jackson learn along the way as he discovers the truth behind the land he was taught to despise?

No Man’s Land is a western drama co-written by Jake Allyn and David Barraza, and directed by Conor Allyn. Set in the heart of the border between Texas and Mexico, we focus on the Greer family on their cattle ranch near the Rio Grande. One of their sons, Jackson, is being scouted for a possible minor league baseball deal as he’s a talented prospect, though he has some hesitation of leaving the ranch life behind for the city life in New York. While patrolling their property late at night, Jackson’s father Bill, and his older brother Lucas, come across a group of immigrants and an altercation occurs that leads to Jackson accidentally shooting and killing a young boy. Fearful of the consequences he will have to face, Jackson flees south of the border on horseback across the Rio Grande, having to avoid the Texas Rangers and Mexican federales, embarking on a pilgrimage to seek forgiveness from the dead boy’s vengeful father.

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The film is a project that was originally brought to my attention almost two years ago when they announced the cast for it, followed by an official trailer being released last year, and finally it reaches UK/Irish shores this coming week thanks to Signature Entertainment. From the Allyn brothers, one co-writing and the other helming, they definitely know the type of western they’re looking to craft, balancing the focus on two tales within a solid first act in terms of character focus and pacing. With one family we see the ‘gifted’ son being conflicted with having to leave the only homestead he’s really known for a world he isn’t too sure that he can handle, despite his parents being adamant that he must leave and really begin his life. With the other family we find the father leading his family, as well as a group of fellow immigrants across the border. He’s referred to as The Good Shepherd amongst the other coyote’s that await immigrants looking for safe passage, primarily because he does it to help fellow members of the church, while they do it for money. I found these scenes to be well paced and well acted, as we see how the Greer’s operate on the farm and how the immigrants come through their land in particular at night to enter the U.S, and with Gustavo, his family and the group, we see the route they have to go through and the consequences of going with the wrong coyote. Unfortunately this course sets them on a collision course with the Greer’s and soon their lives are forever changed as a result of Jackson’s actions resulting in the death of Gustavo’s young son Fernando. While Bill does his best to protect his son by claiming it was him to Texas Ranger Ramirez, Ramirez is skeptical of his version of events.

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It’s from the moment that Jackson decides to flee across the border to Mexico is where the film gradually begins to lose its splendour over the rest of its runtime. There is a sincerity in how the Allyn’s approach of blending an old-premised western tale of a man on the run seeking redemption, as well as being an immigrant story and how are cultures and communities are no different than what we’re told to stereotypically believe since we were kids (with one such empathy coming to Jackson when he meets a mother and her son on a bus ride whilst in Mexico in which he tells them one of his father’s sayings, then responding ‘I’ve no idea’ when questioned as to what it means). Unfortunately the film takes too long to get to its final destination, and the manner of which we get there feels rather repetitive in nature as Jackson comes across different families and couples along his travels that treat him with generosity, but unfortunately it feels like some of the conversations he has with the people that his encounters lacks some subtlety. With a runtime just shy of two hours in length, I definitely felt it drag. There’s one character that features in the film that feels tonally out of place with the rest of the characters and appears at times out of convenience or to heighten the stakes of certain sequences, but for me I found him to be a tad too cartoonish for my liking. For a while the film does well in balancing out the stories between Jackson and Gustavo, but it definitely tips towards being more about Jackson and I wonder if that’s why the film started to get stale for me.

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There is still a lot to admire from the film however, with Conor Allyn providing a steady-hand behind the lens in how he executes the important sequences, from the tragedy on Greer’s land, to how we see Jackson begin to settle, even for a brief moment, when he begins working on a ranch with a Mexican family that takes him in, as well as the finale in Guanajuato, which the landscape of Texas as well as the Mexican countryside and towns are well shot by cinematographer Juan Pablo Ramírez. The performances across the ensemble are solid as well. Jake Allyn provides a good lead performance, particularly in showcasing how tormented he is about the death of young Fernando, while I really enjoyed Jorge A. Jiménez’s layered performance as a father filled with rage and vengeance on his mind, even though it conflicts with his moral compass. The supporting cast are good too (including Andie MacDowell, Frank Grillo and George Lopez), but this film primarily rests on Allyn and Jiménez.

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VERDICT

No Man’s Land is a decent enough western drama, well directed with solid performances from its cast, especially Jake Allyn and Jorge A. Jiménez, its just the runtime and repetitive nature of reaching its conclusion is what stopped it from being a great film for me personally.

★★½

SIGNATURE ENTERTAINMENT PRESENTS NO MAN’S LAND ON DIGITIAL PLATFORMS AND DVD ON THE 31ST MAY 2021.